Recent Trends in Archaeological Theory: Some Comments

Document Type: Research Paper


Matthew Johnson Dept of Anthropology Northwestern University 1810 Hinman Ave. Evanston, IL60201 USA


This paper is a selective review of some recent themes in archaeological theory since c.2000. It deals first with a philosophical pragmatism and its application to archaeological thought and practice. The paper then examines a turn to materiality, sometimes glossed as an ‘ontological turn’, and its implications for different aspects of theory and practice. Thirdly, the paper discusses the understanding the past in the context of the present and the need for archaeology to maintain and extend its engagement with issues of diversity. The argument of the paper concludes with some reflective comments on the author’s Archaeological Theory:  An Introduction, first published in 1999, in advance of the third revised edition. Two key themes in this reflection are first, issues arising from a pluralism and democracy of interpretation, and second, the tension between a generalizing survey of ‘world archaeology’ and the need to acknowledge and develop perspectives situated within diverse local contexts.